Spring football couldn’t have arrived soon enough for SEC fans and coaches alike.
There are still so many questions to be answered as the fall season inches ever closer, but we’ll all have a better idea real soon when the bulk of conference schools return to the field and begin plugging in new faces to fill gaps.
Here are 10 things we want to see in the SEC this spring.
10. THE ABSENCE OF SIGNIFICANT INJURIES
Yes, it’s football and it’s a contact game, but there is nothing more disheartening to see any college football player go down during spring football. It not only potentially deprives that player of the upcoming season, but puts a big hit on all the hope and optimism for that team. Fans love to see great players no matter their school and injuries deny them that opportunity.
9. THE SEC’S THREE NEW COACHES
All eyes will be on Georgia’s Kirby Smart, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp and Missouri’s Barry Odom as they begin their head coaching tenures by first trying to right struggling offenses of a year ago. All three have defensive backgrounds, so their choices for offensive coordinators will be under heavy scrutiny from the outset.
8. GEORGIA LB LORENZO CARTER REACH HIS POTENTIAL
The junior outside linebacker arrived in Athens with enormous fanfare, but has yet to come close to living up to recruiting rankings. He endured a largely forgettable sophomore season, but oozes of potential with his great athleticism and 6-foot-6, 237-pound frame. Losing Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd to the NFL means Carter will get another chance to show what he can do, starting this spring. He needs to make the most of what might be his final opportunity.
7. OLE MISS’ NEW PLAYERS PLAY LIKE DEPARTING STARS
The Rebels suffered some significant losses with WR Laquon Treadwell, DT Robert Nkemdiche and OT Laremy Tunsil bolting early for the NFL, but coach Hugh Freeze continues to bring in top-notch talent. Senior QB Chad Kelly returns, so anything is possible. Like every great team, Alabama needs a steady rival, and the Rebels could be just that for years to come. Such a dynamic would be great for the SEC and all of college football.
6. FLORIDA COACH JIM MCELWAIN FIND HIS QB
All he did his first year was win 10 games, guide the Gators to the SEC Championship Game and earn SEC Coach of the Year accolades. Just imagine what McElwain might have accomplished if he had a quarterback who wasn’t originally recruited to Gainesville to run a spread offense. He will choose from four prospects this spring in transfers Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby and true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.
5. THE NEW-LOOK ALABAMA
The reigning national champions once again lost a lot of great players, but also witnessed the defections of assistants, notably Smart and Mel Tucker. That means there will be new faces on the field and new ones coaching along the sidelines, but as long as the venerable Nick Saban remains, you can expect the Crimson Tide to be formidable once again.
4. SIGNS OF LIFE IN THE LSU OFFENSE
Coach Les Miles just barely held off a coup attempt last fall and might not be so fortunate again if the Tigers’ offense doesn’t improve. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron just signed a new deal, but the pressure is on to diversify beyond All-American tailback Leonard Fournette and challenge Alabama for the SEC West crown. Finding a passing game would be a good start.
3. FORGET ABOUT JIM HARBAUGH ALREADY
OK, the Michigan coach outmaneuvered the entire SEC and made inroads into coveted conference recruiting grounds in Florida and Alabama. Yeah, so what? There’s more than enough blue-chip talent to go around and the constant whining by league coaches and administrators diminishes the SEC while simultaneously enhancing Harbaugh’s reputation. So get over it, folks.
2. QUARTERBACK BATTLES
The spring will mark the beginning of quarterback battles at Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Competition at the game’s most visible position always makes things interesting.
1. EARLY ENROLLEES SET TO MAKE IMMEDIATE DIFFERENCE
Georgia faithful have been awaiting the arrival of prized quarterback recruit Jacob Eason for what seems like an eternity, so all eyes will be on the former five-star recruit in Athens this spring. It’s only a matter of when Smart hands Eason the keys to the kingdom.
Spring ball will help determine if that date is sooner rather than later. Eason is perhaps the most visible of the handful of highly-touted freshmen throughout the SEC who enrolled early to get the chance to earn some immediate playing time. How fast they get up to speed will be key.